This Villa-Filled Vacation Spot Lived Up to The Hype

Well, I took the train from Milan to Como. Tickets were cheap and the ride was only 30 minutes. After leaving the train station, a giant hand immediately greets you.

The Monumento ai Caduti per Servizio is dedicated to wounded service people.

Lake Como, which is shaped like an upside down “Y,” is located in the foothills of the Alps.

After a few aperitivos on shore, we hopped on a boat to visit a few of the different charming cities along the 56 mile long body of water.

Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike
Lake Como is only Italy’s 3rd biggest lake. But it’s certainly the best known.

Yes, yes. It’s a celebrity favorite. Folks like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Madonna, blah, blah, blah… But that’s nothing new. Back in the 1800s, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway vacationed here too.

In fact, villa life was born on Lake Como. Rome’s rich and famous created unparalleled luxurious winter getaways during the heights of the empire.

Welcome to Bellagio!

Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike

The commune is known as the pearl of Lake Como.

The area is rich in history. There’s evidence of human life dating back to the Paleolithic Period. In 225 BC, the Romans showed up and took over per usual. They transformed Bellagio into a garrison.

Speaking of famous folks who love Lake Como, Virgil and Pliny the Younger also frequented the region. Pliny had two villas, one named Comedy and the other named Tragedy.

For centuries, the port of Bellagio was strategically important. It’s funny to think now as you walk the colorful cobbled pathways, dipping in and out of shops and bars.

Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike

I found the sweetest little beer tavern tucked underground–Taverna Gambrinus Bellagio. They have a gorgeous patio, but if you go inside you’ll find a domed cave with a great selection.

Like a lot of European countries, a small snack is served with most drinks in Italy. Aperitivos are usually small plates of meat, cheeses, nuts, even chips.

Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike

It’s easy to see Lake Como’s appeal. You won’t find any high rise hotels here–just quaint shuttered windows and brightly painting plaster.

Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike

“This lake exceeds anything
I ever beheld in beauty…

It is long and narrow,
and has the appearance of a mighty river
winding among the mountains and the forests.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818
Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike

Because the lake is so deep and the climate is warm, it never freezes. This creates a stunning environment with palms and fruit trees under the snow capped Alps in the distance.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Built in 1910 by Bellagio local, Enea Gandola, and his wife Maria Orsolini.
Actress Greta Garbo called the hotel “that happy, sunny place” in the 1932 film Grand Hotel.

Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike

But Lake Como also has a dark side. In 1943, Villa D’Este was converted into a Nazi hospital. The rumor is that this was the spot war criminals fleeing to South America came to get plastic surgery.

Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike
Church San Lorenzo in Tremezzo (c. 1775)
Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike
Lake Como / for the love of nike / Jennifer Martinez Conway

San Martino Church perched in the hills above Griante

This church is old. How old? Not sure. In the 1930s, Byzantine gold coins were found during renovations. It’s believed that this was a Roman outpost with some pretty great views.

Villa del Balbianello at sunset

This movie-famous spot is in the commune of Lenno on the Dosso d’Avedo peninsula. Maybe you recognize it from James Bond or Star Wars. It used to be a monastery, then it became some really rich people’s home, and now you can get married there.

“Nowhere else than on the Lake of Como can there be found such a paradise of tranquil repose.”

Mark Twain
Exploring Lake Como / for the love of nike

and so ends this European excursion.